The song “Blue Moon” is a great example of a 1-6-2-5 progression, which occurs twice at the beginning of each A section (the song has an AABA structure, so the progression is heard a lot). In fact, this Rogers and Hart classic is one of the earliest recorded instances of this progression. Since it was fist published, it’s been recorded many times, including a wonderfully swinging version by Billie Holiday in the key of Ab, with a fabulous band that included Oscar Peterson on piano, Barney Kessel on guitar and Ray Brown on bass. As with any jazz standard, there are many variations of the changes for this song, so you may find slightly different chords to these if you look them up in a jazz songbook.
Here are the first few bars of the song in the key of Ab along with ukulele chord diagrams. I’ve started the song off with a voicing of the Ab major 7 chord that puts the melody note on the top string. Please note that as this song is still under copyright, I can’t include the melody or lyrics, but I have provided you with an example I recorded in Ab on my last album which you can listen to below as you follow the chord chart.
I’ve chosen voicings to create movement for each chord, but the movement is gradual down and up the fretboard. There may be some chords you’re not yet familiar with (e.g. the C half-diminished chord that starts off the 5th bar, also known as “C minor 7 flat 5” and written sometimes as Cm7(b5). If you’re not yet familiar with some of these chords, you can still use the diagrams to start playing them. Or, just play the roots for now. You can come back to this lesson after we’ve covered the minor 2-5-1 sequence, which will set you up nicely for half-diminished chords.
If you want to listen to a duo version of Blue Moon with just voice and guitar, here is a version I recorded on my album “Kiss Me Like That”, with the wonderful Joey Goldstein on guitar. You can clearly follow the bass notes he plays in his accompaniment. Listen for the 1-6-2-5s at the beginning of the A sections (which always start with the lyric “Blue moon”…):
Have fun practicing the I-vi-ii-V sequence! It is time well spent and will serve you well for many jazz standards. When first starting out with this sequence, just play the roots until you’ve got the bass motion in your head. If you need a reminder about how to do that, review Playing The Roots – Part 1. Then, when you practice playing the chords, make sure you play the sequence once while singing the bass notes. Only once you’ve done that should you then sing the melody. Hopefully you’ll still be hearing the bass notes at the back of your head, but don’t let that distract you from the lyrics.
Challenge: can you name other songs that contain a 1-6-2-5? Leave a comment below and share your list so we can compare notes!
I’d like to thank the musicians and engineers who helped me make the album “Kiss Me Like That”. For the song “Blue Moon” the personnel were: Diane Nalini on vocals and Joey Goldstein on guitar. The recording engineer was Jeremy Darby. Mixed by Diane Nalini. Mastered by Ron Skinner. Copyright 2009 Earthglow Records.